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Hagberg v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

September 14, 2017

KIMBERLY HAGBERG, o/b/o EMIL P. HAGBERG, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          GREG KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Kimberly Hagberg, [1] on behalf of her deceased husband, Emil P. Hagberg (“Plaintiff”), petitions for review of an adverse decision by Defendant, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”). Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff had multiple severe impairments, including diabetes mellitus with neuropathy, obesity, fibromyalgia, and right shoulder impairment, but retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as a bench packager, bench assembler, and sorter.

         As explained below, the Court finds the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. The Commissioner's decision is therefore AFFIRMED.

         Procedural and Factual Background

         The complete facts and arguments are presented in the parties' briefs and are repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         Plaintiff filed the pending application on February 14, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of December 15, 2012. The Commissioner denied the application at the initial claim level, and Plaintiff appealed the denial to an ALJ. On November 23, 2015, the ALJ held a hearing and on December 29, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 21, 2016, leaving the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies and judicial review is now appropriate under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Standard of Review

         A federal court's review of the Commissioner's decision to deny disability benefits is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Andrews v. Colvin, 791 F.3d 923, 928 (8th Cir. 2015). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough evidence that a reasonable mind would find it sufficient to support the Commissioner's decision. Id. In making this assessment, the court considers evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision, as well as evidence that supports it. Id. The court must “defer heavily” to the Commissioner's findings and conclusions. Wright v. Colvin, 789 F.3d 847, 852 (8th Cir. 2015). The court may reverse the Commissioner's decision only if it falls outside of the available zone of choice; a decision is not outside this zone simply because the evidence also points to an alternate outcome. Buckner v. Astrue, 646 F.3d 549, 556 (8th Cir. 2011).

         Discussion

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process[2] to determine whether a claimant is disabled, that is, unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to consider the overall record, resulting in an erroneous finding that Plaintiff did not meet Listing 11.14; (2) rejecting the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician; (3) discounting Plaintiff's subjective complaints; and (4) failing to consider the combined effects of Plaintiff's impairments. These arguments are without merit.

         I. The ALJ properly found that Plaintiff did not meet Listing 11.14.

         First, Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to consider the entire record, resulting in a finding that he failed to meet Listing 11.14 for peripheral neuropathies.

         To be found disabled at Step Three, a plaintiff must show that his impairment or combination of impairments meet or equal all of the specified criteria in a listing. See Johnson v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 1067, 1070 (8th Cir. 2004). “The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to ...


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